Travel restrictions were already in place effectively stopping new arrivals so critics of the US leader say the move is more a message to his base.
US President Donald Trump has signed a new executive order suspending all immigration into the US temporarily because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The move comes amid what was already an effective cessation of entry into the US because of fears over the spread of the Covid-19, with airlines halting international flights and the border officials halting entry for everyone but US nationals and residents.
“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” Trump said in a statement published by the White House.
While the statement is not clear on what happens to those on immigrant visas set to expire in the coming weeks and months, the White House has previously extended the visas of non-immigrant workers currently in the US.
The mention of the need to protect jobs however, falls into line with Trump’s pre-pandemic election campaign rhetoric, in which he urged fellow US politicians to back his attempts to cut down on immigration.
Trump’s latest statement comes as 22 million US residents have been made unemployed in just three weeks due to pandemic-related lockdowns with millions more set to be added to that total in the coming weeks.
It also comes during an election year with the US electorate’s opinion of Trump’s handling of the pandemic likely to influence the outcome of the vote.
The US is the worst hit country in the world for coronavirus cases and deaths with 793,000 cases and over 42,000 deaths at the time of publication on April 21.
Many Democrat opponents of the president have therefore railed against his latest policy decision for being more motivated by political ideology than safety concerns.
“Immigration has nearly stopped and the US has far more cases than any other country,” said Democrat congressman Don Beyer, adding: “This is just xenophobic scapegoating.”
Fellow Democrat Joaquin Castro said: “This action is not only an attempt to divert attention away from Trump’s failure to stop the spread of the coronavirus and save lives, but an authoritarian-like move to take advantage of a crisis and advance his anti-immigrant agenda. We must come together to reject his division.”
While Trump supporters, such as Students for Trump co-founder Ryan Fournier, encouraged the president to formalise the measure so that it applies after the pandemic too.
“This is a perfect opportunity for President Trump to strengthen and fix our broken immigration system,” Fournier wrote.
While approval ratings for Trump’s handling of the crisis lie at about the 45 percent region, largely along partisan lines, researchers have found decreasing faith in the economy among ordinary Americans.
Unemployment rates stood at 4.7 percent upon Trump’s accession to the White House in January 2017, slowly dropping to around 3.5 percent just before the US started taking measures to mitigate the spread of the virus in February 2020.
The figure for March 2020 was 4.4 percent with a further rise certain for April.
The US like other countries hit by the coronavirus pandemic is facing long term financial instability as businesses suffer from lack of spending during the lockdown.